The topic that generated this wonderful discussion is “Call Centers”. A call centre (UK) or call center (US) is a centralized office that answers incoming telephone calls from customers. A call centre is operated by a company to administer incoming product support or information inquiries from consumers. Outgoing calls for telemarket-ing, clientele, and debt collection are also made. Such an office may also responds to letters, faxes, e-mails and similar written correspondence. Recently, the term contact centre (UK) or contact center (US) is often applied when such multiple functions are blended in one office. Diverse ranges of businesses use call centers to interact with their customers. Examples include utility companies, mail order catalogue firms, and customer support for computer hardware and software. Owing to the size of companies and their customer bases, these offices are often very large, such as converted warehouses (http://www.gs-homepage.com/call-center.-html). Call centers are said to have significantly contributed to the unemployment reduction in India. Given the fact that Namibia is a developing country like India (although India is a slightly advanced) economists say that the same method can be applied here. So will this concept work for Namibia? The answer in this case maybe somewhat a no and/or a yes. Call centers in countries like India and China worked because big Western Corporations are relocating from the west to the east escaping high labor costs in the west, hence finding green pastures in the east in terms of labor-costs and increased customer base. Plus India has good telecommunication facilities and a large population that resulted into cheap international calls from India and to India. India’s IT sector is also well advanced. Namibia’s telecommunication sector (evident from high charges for both local and international calls) and IT still require a lot of work to bring it on par with the ones of countries like India and China and this will count heavily against Namibia in terms of attracting call centers. The other downside of Namibia is its tiny population (in terms of customer base), however this is not such a big factor with an improved infrastructure, telecommunication & IT services we can serve customers in the neighboring countries if proper negotiations are carried out. The other downside for our country in terms of attracting call centers to Namibia is the lack of proper marketing strategies. Even though call centers themselves are carrying out marketing for various firms they tend to be attracted to already flourishing markets. Hence, critics have it that Namibia need time to sort the above mentioned factors out before it can become appropriate for call centers. One tool that is used by call centers is toll free numbers (the bill in this case is probably paid by the corporations whose products are being advertised) and the toll free numbers are possible because the call charges are cheap in those specific countries in which call centers are flourishing. Of course South Africa has toll-free numbers but they don’t go beyond their border and a toll free number in Namibia is a rare commodity due to the high telecommunication costs. However, on the other side of the same coin, poor marketing have been blamed as one of the reasons why Namibia is not able to compete for call centers. Is it not possible to learn from the call center concept and apply some of the techniques to improve local marketing of Namibian products? As a country we should realize that vision 2030 can only be achieved if we start thinking out-of-the-box. This means we should start incorporating new things in our traditional way of doing things plus we must start taking risks (of course supported by educated guesses). Traditional ways of marketing like the radio, newspaper and TV are probably better suited for Namibia at the moment but it is probably time we as the young generation of Namibia start paying serious thoughts on e-commerce (e-marketing and internet shopping). This can only happen if we start taking risks and if we can find ways to lower the cost of IT (especially internet) and telephone services in our country. Overall the idea of call centers might not be the appropriate one for Namibia at the moment but thinking along the same line by setting up an e-commerce website responsible for marketing products in Nami-bia and eventually growing into a fully functional advertising firm is probably the way forward. In conclusion remember people like Martin Luther King Junior, Hosea Kutako, Man-dume Ndemufayo, Sam Nujo-ma, etc. all took risks for the cause of our freedom. Imagine if these people were very conservative and did not take the risks we will not have been here today. So, now is our time to take risks in order to ensure Na-mibia’s economic emancipation. That conclude the first part of this topic, make sure you don’t miss the second part which will be more thought provoking than this part and will focus on adding value to some Namibian products. If you like reading the above summary you are welcome to go to www.otjiso-mething.com.na for more details on the discussion.
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